Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2009 Reading Preview

How, you’ve asked, did my 2008 reading challenge change me?

A couple ways come to mind, the first being that I learned how to (duh) read a lot. Not to read fast, mind you; I’m still slow, I sub-vocalize. But yet to read a lot. Mostly, I reallocated evenings to reading instead of wishing there was something good to watch on TV. By finding minutes to read whenever I waited in a line or for an appointment. And especially by paying attention -- if I wasn’t making progress in a book, I learned to eliminate distractions and dig in deeper until the pages took hold. If they didn’t (no time for that! either in the Challenge or in life), Plan C was to ease up by alternating the book with another, more engaging read … or finally by cutting bait altogether and abandoning the book to a pile for the Friends of the Library sale.

Second, I learned to trust in abundance. I'm stingy with pleasures, including books, saving them up instead of gobbling them up. But by giving myself permission (a mandate, really) to savor a bunch of books, I had opportunity after opportunity to notice that each time I finished one, another (two others? ten?) appeared in its place. (Ah, abundance: so many lessons still there for me. It was, after all, the stimulus for beginning this blog two years ago.)

Good changes!

And yet.

All that reading diverted me from my family ... friends ... homekeeping ... this blog. And my writing. For a year, I spent no time in the energy of my favorite magazines -- New Scientist’s curiosity, Martha Stewart Living’s lush images, O Magazine’s fun. While meantime, the deep immersion in long works (especially novels) explored ideas rather than incited them. My imagination turned dusty, a rare idea blowing through like tumbleweed.

Only recently have I felt a hint of humidity returning. Part of it must be a satisfaction at finally having read some of the books that are basics in literature or popular culture (Alice in Wonderland, for God’s sake!). Part of it is probably the year’s accumulation of some very good reading that is starting to compost. Whatever, a bit of it escaped in a little creative burp while I was in the driver’s seat on a road trip over Thanksgiving … and I suddenly connected the premises of two of my (languishing) writing projects and merged them into something new. Huh!

I have no better transition into this year’s reading than to simply admit I’ve taken on the 999 Challenge. Not for the volume of reading this time, but because organizing and list-making are forms of play to me. Heck, it was fun just to gather the Challenge books that I already own onto this separate shelf.

How about you? Any readerly learnings from 2008? Any solid or semi-solid plans for 2009?


  1. I'm convinced that reading, especially non-fiction, cultivates the ability to rationally think or argue. Reading fiction, cultivates a story-telling style, whether in fiction or non-fiction.

    What did I learn from the 14 books I read?
    1. If you're reading short stories, skip the ones that don't pull you in within the first page or so.
    2. Same for novels. It's the writer's job to pull you in. (Exception: don't dismiss a story on genre alone. But do dismiss on bad story.)
    3. I can read faster when I attempt to keep statistics on my reading speed.
    4. There's an abundance of books I'm not getting to yet, but want to.
    5. I enjoy reading plays.
    6. I don't read enough plays and I should. I should make a list of plays. Detail Muse, on the other hand, likes to play with lists.
    7. I, on the other hand, hate lists.

    My goal in 2009 is 27 books, half of which should be books I already own. Call it The 399 challenge: 3 books in 9 categories, in 2009.

  2. I'm conflicted about how soon to abandon a book/story. If there's ANYthing intriguing about the writing, I tend to continue. I'm thrilled to have experienced the originality of Catch-22 and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius but oh, they required perseverence.

    I'd love to know what reading categories you decide on.

  3. I can't wait to read your 999 list!


  4. I'm taking your advice from the past: read the books, THEN decide what categories they fall in ;)

  5. Denise -- you've probably discovered this by now -- there's a link (in my blogroll) to my 999 reading.